Volume 3, Issue 8

Dear MPS Partners and Friends,

Because Teach For America (TFA) in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) has garnered recent attention, I would like to share information about our collaboration. In partnering with Teach For America, MPS continues its tradition of cultivating excellent educators through alternative licensure programs. Historically, we have been involved with programs that provide the opportunity for classroom professionals to become licensed teachers. TFA offers MPS another venue for recruiting high-quality educators to the school district.
MPS currently has 20 TFA corps teachers and six alumni who were hired into permanent teaching positions. As a graduate of the Collaborative Urban Educator (CUE) program, I am grateful for quality programs that draw professionals into the teaching profession in non-traditional ways. The CUE program was instrumental in my career shift from financial analyst to educator.
We must continue working to identify, attract, recruit and retain a diverse group of people to do the important work of teaching. K-12 organizations need strong educational leaders and teachers, but we also need the best and brightest business people, technology gurus, communicators and others to run an outstanding educational system.
Hiring TFA teachers is one of several strategies used by MPS to attract and retain high-performing educators. TFA teachers are recruited from Historically Black Colleges and top universities nationwide through a comprehensive, selective screening process; of 48,000 applicants this year, only 17 percent were accepted into the program. After selection, they participate in a rigorous summer training institute to prepare them for the classroom and receive ongoing support from both TFA and MPS throughout their two-year commitment.
By partnering with TFA, we aim to identify competitive candidates in hard-to-fill areas such as bilingual education, English as a Second Language, science and math. Our relationship with TFA also allows us to seek diverse candidates for teaching positions.
TFA teachers are an asset to our school communities. They are trained to place a strong emphasis on data-driven differentiation and instruction, which aligns with our accountability goals for measurement of results as outlined in the strategic plan. TFA corps members are renowned for doing whatever it takes to make a difference in the lives of their students. In a recent independent survey of principals employing corps members in the Twin Cities by Policy Studies Associates:
  • 96% reported that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their corps members.
  • 93% said their corps members made a positive difference in their school community with more than half reporting corps members made an extremely positive difference.
  • 96% said they would hire another corps member to fill a vacancy at their school.
Finally, TFA’s strong teacher preparation, training, induction and ongoing support help to ensure success of their teachers throughout their two-year commitment to TFA. Teachers are paired with an instructional coach who observes them in the classroom and provides individualized support. I have included a summary of the professional development and support given to TFA teachers:
  • Independent Work (30-35 hours): Prior to arriving at their summer training institute, corps members complete 30-35 hours of independent work that is intended to familiarize the teacher candidates with Teach For America’s Teaching As Leadership framework. As part of their independent work, corps members observe veteran teachers, set a vision for their teaching practice and read a set of textbooks on topics such as instructional planning and delivery, classroom management and culture, elementary and secondary literacy instruction, diversity, community and achievement and learning theory.
  • Induction and Training Institute (>350 hours): The summer induction and training institute is a rigorous teacher preparation program that is six weeks long. Days are scheduled for 14 hours, resulting in an experience that equates to approximately 10-11 weeks of learning. During induction, corps members learn the mindsets, approaches and strategies of successful beginning teachers. At the summer institute, one of two key components is teaching in summer school classrooms, which provides five weeks of clinical practice in an authentic teaching environment. Corps members are supervised to benefit from feedback and reflection. In addition, they participate in a regimen of curriculum seminars designed to provide essential knowledge and skills. As summer school teachers, corps members must demonstrate proficiency in targeted teacher actions before being allowed to assume lead classroom positions in the fall.
  • Regional Professional Development: Foundational Tools of Teaching (24-34 hours): This course, which takes place in August, builds foundations to ensure corps members are providing rigorous instruction early in the school year and are ready to use diagnosis and assessment meaningfully to adjust course to meet all students’ needs. Over 20 hours of online and in-person instruction meet 25 Standards of Effective Practice for Beginning Teachers through courses that develop the teacher’s ability to craft an ambitious academic goal for students, establish a long-term plan, draft unit and lesson plans and track student progress on formative assessments.
  • Ongoing Support: Each corps member partners with an instructional coach who provides support, guidance and constructive feedback. Instructional coaches regularly observe corps members in the classroom and then follow up with different types of coaching and support to help them make a deeper impact on student achievement and improve classroom culture. This may involve analyzing student results to determine what is inhibiting progress, modeling instructional techniques and providing guidance on how to implement them in the classroom. TFA also provides cohort-wide professional development sessions throughout the school year and extensive online teaching resources.
Through independent work, training, professional development and ongoing support, TFA teachers are prepared to help drive achievement and prepare students for college and a career. We are pleased to have them working as MPS teachers alongside their colleagues in our buildings.
Bernadeia H. Johnson, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools